Original Paper

Social Indicators Research

, Volume 84, Issue 2, pp 179-188

First online:

Keeping things simple: why the Human Development Index should not diverge from its equal weights assumption

  • Lee M. StapletonAffiliated withCentre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University Email author 
  • , Guy D. GarrodAffiliated withCentre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Newcastle University

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Abstract

Using a range of statistical criteria rooted in Information Theory we show that there is little justification for relaxing the equal weights assumption underlying the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) even if the true HDI diverges significantly from this assumption. Put differently, the additional model complexity that unequal weights add to the HDI more than counteracts the improvement in goodness-of-fit. This suggests that, in some cases, there may be limited validity in increasing the complexity of a range of other composite sustainability indices.

Keywords

Complexity Composite indices Human Development Index Information Theory Sustainable development Well-being